Redstones talk control shift

Sumner won't retire any time soon, he says

NEW YORK -- Sumner and Shari Redstone have been discussing a deal that could see the daughter take full control of the National Amusements theater circuit that she already runs, possibly in return for giving up her 20% stake in the holding firm by the same name, through which father Sumner controls the theater chain plus CBS Corp. and Viacom Inc.

The chairman and controlling shareholder of both entertainment powerhouses mentioned the talks in an interview, which aired in parts on CNBC Thursday and in which he also once again refused to retire any time soon or anoint his daughter as heir of his empire.

"The reason she won't succeed me is not ... that she isn't qualified," Redstone said in the interview for Business Nation. "But I have made it clear that good governance requires ... the boards should decide who succeeds me. I'm not worried about it 'cause it's gonna be another 20, 30 years."

Shari is vice chairman of Viacom and CBS, and president of the National Amusements circuit. She reportedly owns 16% each of Viacom and CBS plus 20% of the National Amusements holdings firm.

Redstone senior lauded her for her work at the film exhibition chain. "As far as operating the circuit, I believe she's No. 1," he told CNBC's David Faber. But he added he sees less growth potential in the theater business than she does and is trying to accomodate Shari's interests with the deal discussions.

The New York Times reported Thursday that a deal for the National Amusements theaters could also come in return for Shari's leaving the CBS and Viacom boards and her stakes in the firms. It suggested Redstone had told CNBC such a deal was pretty much done, even though a transcript obtained from CNBC did not show that.

"Any suggestion that the parties have reached an agreement is false," a spokeswoman for Shari Redstone said, adding the two sides had agreed to keep discussions confidential.

A spokesman for him reiterated a comment from the father that the circuit deal talk was all friendly. "He loves his daughter and his family, and in negotiating for her to acquire the theater circuit, he is trying to accommodate her wishes," the spokesman said.

Redstone senior told CNBC it wasn't clear at this point who would eventually take over the National Amusements holding firm. But her spokeswoman signaled the Redstone daughter could play a key role as she is interested in the continued health of all the holding's assets.

"The Redstone family, through National Amusements, is the controlling shareholder of CBS and Viacom and will remain so after Mr. Redstone's death," she said. "Ms. Redstone is committed to protect the best interests of those companies and to ensure that their next chair has the support of their shareholders and directors."

CBS and Viacom had no comment.